Cultivating a question culture

How receptive is your company's culture to asking questions? This isn't an idle question; that's because questions are one of the keys to creativity and innovation. According to Jeffrey Phillips from the Innovate on Purpose weblog, most organizations don't have a question culture but an answer culture.

How receptive is your company’s culture to asking questions? This isn’t an idle question; that’s because questions are one of the keys to creativity and innovation. According to Jeffrey Phillips from the Innovate on Purpose weblog, most organizations don’t have a “question culture” but an “answer culture.”

“Getting to an answer quickly is often rewarded in business, and having a plausible answer makes it appear we are ‘in the know.’ The problem with the Answer Culture is that ideas get the ‘one and done’ treatment. An idea gets proposed and someone already has the answer – we’ve done that before or it won’t work here or some other answer. Rather than ask questions and expand the discussion, we seek to quickly provide an answer and move on.”

I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences. It’s human nature: no one wants to look dumb, so the critical questions that need to be explored usually go unasked. Executives act like they know the right answer, which is often some variation of “what we’re doing now.”

Rather than simply give an idea a cursory look and then ignore it, Jeffrey suggests that executives usually need to ask numerous questions about an idea in order to flesh it out. In other words, learn more before providing an answer. The subtle opportunities, he points out, usually require more development. Good point, Jeffrey!

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